And with that, the second regular season in the history of the Seattle Kraken is in the books. The team is headed to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time, and although the Kraken got beaten by the Golden Knights at Climate Pledge Arena Thursday, they looked good in their last tune up before the postseason.
“We played pretty damn hard,” said coach Dave Hakstol.
As we expected, there was a fantastic atmosphere for Fan Appreciation Night, which got us even more excited for the upcoming playoff run. The fans were boisterous and showing their love for the Kraken all night long.
Here are our Three Takeaways from the last Kraken regular-season game of the year, a 3-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.
Takeaway #1: Vegas has Seattle’s number
With the loss Thursday, Seattle’s all-time record against Vegas is now a dismal 1-7-0 with the lone win coming Nov. 25. The Kraken outplayed the Golden Knights in every metric Thursday. Yet, they were only able to beat Laurent Brossoit once, despite racking up 3.21 expected goals in all situations, according to Natural Stat Trick.
There’s something about the VGK’s that might be creating a mental block for Seattle’s players, and we feel it when we watch games between the two teams. Even when the Kraken are the better squad, as they were Thursday, there’s a little voice in the back of the brain telling us Vegas is going to score and eventually win.
Despite the Golden Knights having a decent amount of offensive-zone time in the first 10 minutes, the Kraken didn’t allow a shot through to Philipp Grubauer in that time. They were getting sticks in lanes and blocking everything before it got to their netminder, yet somehow, we still knew a goal against was coming.
Sure enough, in classic Vegas-versus-Seattle fashion, Reilly Smith scored at 9:56 of the first period after kicking a Vince Dunn breakout pass attempt. The puck skittered into the feet of Grubauer and trickled over the line for a lucky icebreaker.
Then, as the Kraken dominated the second period with Grade-A chance after Grade-A chance, it was the Golden Knights that capitalized on one of their few opportunities. The teams had been trading penalties, and with another delayed call coming against Seattle and an extra skater on for Vegas, the Golden Knights worked it around until they got their preferred look. Jack Eichel shot from the top of the slot, and Grubauer couldn’t control the rebound. Alec Martinez jumped on it for the eventual game-winning goal.
Heck, even the empty-net goal to make it 3-1 late in the game was irksome. Chandler Stephenson didn’t even shoot the puck; he just poked it off Jared McCann’s stick inside the Vegas blue line, and it somehow slid all the way down the ice and right into the Seattle net.
A win would have been nice for the fans on this night, but the Kraken should feel pretty good about the way they played in their final dress rehearsal before the playoffs. Sometimes a team just has your number.
Takeaway #2: Central Division opponent incoming
Trying to figure out who the Kraken would play in the first round of the playoffs was downright mind boggling Thursday, with a stupid number of teams still in the running. Los Angeles narrowly beat Anaheim to hold the third spot in the Pacific Division and give the Ducks the best chance at landing Connor Bedard in the draft.
That solidified Seattle’s first wild card spot and means the Kraken will cross over to play a team from the Central Division, either Dallas or Colorado.
Remarkably, we still don’t know who it will be, because the Avalanche could jump over the Stars and win the Central with a victory over Nashville on Friday. If that happens, the Kraken would open against the Avs with Games 1 and 2 coming on Tuesday and Thursday. If Colorado loses in any fashion, Seattle would face the Stars, opening the series with games on Monday and Wednesday.
After we informed Morgan Geekie that it was down to those two Central teams, he said, “They’re good teams, obviously. I like our team. I think we match up well with anyone, and I know what we can do in this room. Guys are fully capable of competing night in and night out, so it’s going to be lots of fun. We’re ready for the opportunity, and we’re going to be ready for [whichever opponent we get].”
It is nuts that it is taking until the very last game on the very last day of the regular season to learn who Seattle will face in the opening round, but it has added a nice layer of intrigue for games around the NHL these last couple weeks. We’re thankful the Kraken won’t face Edmonton or Vegas to start.
Takeaway #3: Andre Burakovsky out for a while
Hakstol rarely says much about injuries, but Andre Burakovsky had been noticeably absent from team activities since his one appearance in a morning skate on April 3. At Thursday’s morning practice, we asked the coach if he had any news he could share on Martin Jones or Burakovsky. Hakstol said Jones was “just day to day,” and then said an update would be coming on Burakovsky before the playoffs.
Knowing Hakstol, since he did give a status on Jones but not on Burakovsky, we had a feeling the pre-playoff Burakovsky update wouldn’t be good news. We were correct. The team announced late Thursday that Burakovsky underwent surgery to repair the lower-body ailment that has been lingering since the All-Star break. Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times reported the recovery from the procedure will take about six weeks. So, unless the Kraken go on a long run, perhaps even to the Western Conference Final, Seattle will not get help from Burakovsky.
That’s a big blow for a team that has surely felt the winger’s absence. Burakovsky was the team’s leading scorer at the time of his injury, and Seattle has been inconsistent since he exited the lineup.
The good news here is that Geekie seems to have found a home in Burakovsky’s spot next to Jaden Schwartz and Alex Wennberg and has filled in well there. Geekie had a great game Thursday and helped create Jaden Schwartz’s goal, the only one the Kraken scored.
“He’s been great for us,” said Schwartz. “I think he’s helped me and Wenny out a lot, does a lot of little things right, wins battles, good on face-offs, and he can kind of play anywhere in the defensive or offensive zone. And he’s a big body.”
Added Geekie of his linemates, “They’re good players. I’m just trying to get them pucks; I think you saw that. On the goal, I was trying to get it to Wenny, and Wenny made a great play to Schwartzy, and he got it off. We had a couple good looks tonight, I thought. It’s just about creating those, whether we’re trying to play shutdown against somebody or trying to create offense, I think we created a lot of opportunities tonight, and hopefully we keep it rolling.”
It looks like Geekie will continue to play a huge roll for this team as it heads into the postseason.